This is 9 Tips on How to Laminate Wood. In this post, I’ll show you everything you need to know about making laminated wood blanks, and using them to take your projects to the next level. Enjoy.
How to Laminate Wood
Laminating wood is just a fancy way of saying that you’re gluing pieces of wood together to make one bigger piece. That’s really it. However, in the world of laminated wood, there is an infinite number of things you can do.
Why would you want to laminate wood together in the first place? Woodworking is a lot of fun with solid pieces of wood, but you can take it to the next level by gluing together several different colors of wood into one big piece.
For example, you could just cut one flat piece of wood to use as a cutting board if you really wanted to. However, it looks a whole lot nicer when you glue up several smaller pieces together and create a nice looking design.
Also, just about any woodworking project that you currently make can be taken to a whole new level by using laminated wood. The fun thing is, once you have the piece laminated, the process is largely the same.
On top of that, you can glue up several pieces at once, and try several different designs all in the same session. Then, you take those laminated blanks and make them into something amazing, and they look even better because of the different types of wood in the blank.
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Stick around, and I’ll show you several great tips on how to laminate wood together in your shop, and by the time you’re done you’ll be very confident to start making your own laminated blanks.
See Also: Woodworking Tips Cards – Laminated Wood
Plane the Pieces Flat
The first thing that you need to know in order to be successful with laminated blanks and laminated wood in general is that you need to have a really good mating surface where the boards will join together with glue.
This means it has to be very flat. You can do this by hand, or you can do it with an electric planer. You can also intentionally select board’s that have already been surfaced, and those will be really flat as well.
If you’re going to be serious about making things out of laminated wood, you’ll definitely want to invest in a good thickness planer. In a couple of passes, you could do quite a bit of work that would otherwise take a lot longer by hand.
Joint the Edges if Needed
Also, if you’re going to join anything together on the edges, you’re going to need to run the edges through a jointer or make them flat by hand. This is for the same reason that you flatten the faces, because any two surfaces to be glued together need to be flat.
It may happen a little less often that you’ll glue the edges of something together, but if you do, a couple of passes through the jointer will make the edges perfectly flat, and they will be ready to create an excellent glue joint.
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Since laminated wood is the star of the show here, you are going to have possibly several glue joints to deal with. The better start you give them by making flat surfaces, the longer they will last, and the better your woodworking project will be.
Do a Dry Run to Test the Fit
The next really important thing that you need to do when you get the faces of your wood nice and flat is to do a test fitting. This is simply aligning the two pieces of wood just as they will be glued together, and looking at the joint.
Literally, pick up the two pieces, touch the two faces that will be glued together, and take a look at the seam in between them. Can you see through it? Is it loose or tight? Are there areas that are better than others?
These are the questions that you should be asking yourself as you’re looking at that scene. Your goal should be to only see the line where the two pieces meet, and not see anything through them.
The pieces should also come together easily, where they don’t have to be pressed in order to close the joint. A teeny-tiny little bit of pressure is OK, but if you’re having to apply clamps to see what the joint looks like, you need to fix the wood first.
Use a Good Quality Glue
Now that you know your pieces fit really well, it’s time to glue them together, but you can’t just use any old wood glue. If this isn’t already a habit of yours, you need to make it one. Use only good quality wood glue from a brand that you trust.
If you’re a total beginner and you don’t trust anyone, look at some of your woodworking idols and some of the people that you follow in the craft. Look at the type of wood glue they use, which is easy to find if you watch videos of them making things.
Odds are if it’s good enough for them, that it will also be good enough for you. In a pinch, if you don’t actually want to do any of that, I use Titebond original wood glue with the red label, and it’s been awesome the entire time.
It’s not the most expensive wood glue, and it’s not the cheapest wood glue, it’s right down the middle. The product has been around for a very long time, it’s been trusted by more woodworkers than I can count, and the track record is outstanding.
When you have your glue, use your finger or roller to apply a very thin layer on both faces that will be brought together in the center of the joint. Wear a glove if you’re going to do it by hand, and make a layer that is thin enough that it’s not soupy.
Use Even Clamping Pressure
The next thing you want to do is start applying your clamps. It’s also really important that you monitor the clamping pressure. It’s a mistake to clamp the daylights out of your project, and you should really do something else instead.
Making a really good joint is more about even clamping pressure than extremely high clamping pressure. It’s more about getting several clamps on the pieces that are evenly spaced, and ratcheting up a good amount of pressure.
When you use extremely high pressure, it forces wood glue out of the joints, and you could actually end up forcing out so much that you don’t have enough. Don’t do that, and instead use a medium pressure and space your clamps evenly.
See Also: 9 Great Tips for Storing Wood Clamps
Use Lots of Clamps Evenly Spaced
While on the topic of spacing your clamps well, this is a really important thing to discuss, and it will make a big difference. It is far better for you to use five clamps that are spaced an inch apart then to try to use one or two clamps and do the same job.
When you use less clamps, you get areas of high-pressure right underneath the clamp itself, and then the pressure diminishes the farther away you get. If you don’t use enough clamps, you leave areas of high and low pressure.
There’s no real magic number, or number of clamps per inch that you have to use. It’s just one of those things that you kind of pick up overtime. I recommend using clams at least every couple to few inches on bigger projects, and that’s a pretty good starting point.
The idea is to cover all areas of the wood that you are laminating in order to give it the best chance of forming a good glue joint. This means clamps at the ends, and then evenly space clamps all throughout the middle sections.
See Also: How To Make Cam Clamps
Test Different Looks Before Gluing
Something that I recommend you do, and something that’s a lot of fun with this process is to test different looks before actually applying any glue. This is a really simple and fun part of laminating wood, and I really hope that you don’t skip it.
In order to do this, gather up a bunch of pieces of wood that you would use for making a larger laminated blank, and just start piling them up in two different looks. Once you pile one up that you like, take a picture of it, and then make other ones.
Keep on going like that until you found several different laminated wood looks that you like, and you’ll have several pictures to remind you of exactly what to do, and what order. It’s really easy, fast, and you’ll discover lots of amazing designs. Don’t forget to make some notes too of the species names.
It’ll also help reveal some designs that don’t quite look as good in real life as you might’ve thought they would when you made them. That’s going to happen every once in a while, just be glad you didn’t put any glue in between them and get stuck with an ugly blank.
Keep those photographs in a safe place. If they’re in your phone, email them to yourself, flag the email when you get it, and save it somewhere important. This way, even if something happens to your phone, you’ll always have the pictures in your email.
See Also: Complex Laminated Ring
Laminated Projects Look More Interesting
One of the best tips that I can possibly give you about laminating wood is the simple fact that projects made out of laminate it would just look more interesting. There are a lot of nice looking wood species in the world, but by themselves they’re not as interesting.
Nearly anything that you make out of a solid piece of wood can be made out of laminated wood and give it a fresh look. The project itself will have a lot more detail, and it will stand out among other projects made of solid wood.
This can be an easy way to differentiate yourself if you had to go to a show or someplace where you need to sell your woodworking projects. When everyone else is showing up with solid wood, you show up with some beautiful laminates, and you might clean house.
Laminated Wood Projects are Not More Difficult
Here is the other really cool part about making woodworking projects with wood that you laminated together. The actual process of building the project is no different than if you were to use the wood that you normally use.
A piece of wood that’s glued together out of many pieces of wood will function just the same as a solid piece. It cuts the same, sands the same, and works the same. If you were blindfolded, you wouldn’t know the difference while you’re working with it.
You would probably lose all your fingers too, but that’s not the point.
The point is when you put in the effort to make a laminated blank, at the point where you have it completed, the work is over. From there on out, the project is exactly the same as if you were to of made it with anything else.
The only big difference in the end is the look. That’s the part that makes laminated wood worth all of the time and effort.
Bonus – Wood Lamination for Curved Pieces
Another thing that you can do by gluing several pieces of wood together is create curved pieces of wood for some of your projects. There’s a lot of different ways to bend or curvy piece of wood, and lamination is one of them.
For example, you could take several thin strips of wood, and then make a form that is curved, and glue all the pieces together while clamped to the form. Once the glue dries, and you remove the pieces together as one, they will have the same shape as the form they were clamped to.
Think about the rockers on the bottom of a rocking chair. You could make that out of several pieces of wood that are only an eighth of an inch thick, and glue them all together on a larger piece of wood that you cut to a curve. Once the glue dries, remove the clamp and the rocker will fall off ready to be fitted.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know all of these different ways to make gluing different pieces of wood together into larger blanks a lot easier, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. This is really a fun process, and I promise you’ll enjoy it if you give it a try.
Start with one of the projects that you normally make, and plan on replacing one of the pieces of wood with a laminated piece that’s made out of several smaller pieces. Practice making some blanks that accentuate the different types of wood that you’ll be using.
Then, make sure that your joints are really good and flat, apply a high-quality wood glue, and clamp them with even pressure. Allow the entire stack to dry overnight, and then trim up the edges on your jointer, planer, or sander.
Now that you have a wooden blank, use it just as if you would use a solid piece of wood to create that project. I’m sure you’ll like the way that it looks, and you’ll have opened up a never ending design opportunity with your projects.
If you have any questions about these nine tips for laminating wood, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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